Whenever I am on the Southern train heading towards Chichester, I always look out for Arundel castle which sits tall and proud on the hill.
Arundel is a historic market town in the South Downs of West Sussex. The River Arun runs through the western side of the town and the river is home to many bird species, especially mallard. Somewhere in June, you can see cute little mallards dawdling on the pavement and on River Arun.
Arundel Castle is the major attraction in Arundel. The castle which is perched on a hill was built in the 11th century and the current owner is the Duke of Norfolk. Arundel castle is open to the public from April to November. The castle hoard famous paintings, tapestries, stained glass, china, clocks, sculpture, carving, heraldry and armour in stunning room settings. The beautiful and vast garden grounds are used for concerts in summer. There are different entrance fees for visiting the castle and the garden, check the website www.arundelcastle.org or enquire at the castle gate about the different fares.
The high street in Arundel is said to be the steepest in England. Most of the shops here sell antiques and craft work. There are many interesting antiques, ranging from old Victorian to not too long ago artefact like telephone, World War 2 memorabilia and toys from the 60s.
There are several pubs, restaurant and tea rooms in Arundel. The most popular haunt is the Black Rabbit, a pub and restaurant nestles amongst hedgerow with the River Arun as its frontage. Located slightly away from the main street, Black Rabbit is a tranquil place to take a rest and have a beer.
It is easy to get to Arundel. The train station is only minutes away from the centre. Arundel lies to the north of the A27 with Hampshire in one end and Brighton in the other.
Arundel (pronounced ARR-n-dl (arrow), not AIR) is a small town situated in the heart of the rolling South Downs in West Sussex. If you're ever in that part of world, it's well worth spending at least half a day there, if not longer. It's a very pretty and historical town, which is dominated by the twin edifices of the Norman castle and the Gothic cathedral at the top of the hill, and the River Arun running along the bottom. The skyline does make a particularly dramatic vista if you approach it from the bottom of the hill near the river.
My association with the town probably starts from well before I can remember. My grandfather and grandmother actually lived at Arundel Castle for many, many years, and my brother and I spent many a Sunday afternoon exploring the grounds, as well as the castle. My mum and dad were married there, and I was christened there too. Nowadays, I live about half an hour away from Arundel, but still make the odd trip there several times a year just to explore the shops or partake of an afternoon tea.
The town is very laid back and always friendly. It's a lovely place to have a wander around in at your own pace. A spring and summer visit will guarantee lots to see and do there, though you will pay the price as the town can often be over run with tourists, making car parking a bit of a nightmare. A late autumn or winter visit will find Arundel a little quieter and you're more likely to be able to park in the centre (try the High Street or Tarrant Street). If you do go there in the summer, then try and head for the pay and display car park at the bottom of the hill near to the river (Mill Road). If you leave your car there for the day, you can explore the town at your leisure.
My best suggestion is that you head up to the top of the hill first by walking up the rather steep High Street (afterall you're going to have more energy at the start of the day). If you make a very useful stop off at the Tourist Office along the way, you can pick up all some leaflets and guides on how to make the most of your visit to Arundel. You can purchase walking tour sheets of the town, which will definitely assist in making sure you make the most of your visit. There's also an Arundel Audio Tour which you can hire. Similarly there are details to be had on other nearby treks (such as walks around Arundel Park, the South Downs or along the River Arun. I've not yet done the Arundel Ghost Experience tour, but it sounds really rather interesting and is definitely one I'll be doing in the future...but not on Halloween!
~~~ Arundel Castle ~~~
Most visitors to Arundel are there, of course, to see Arundel Castle. It really does dominate the whole town and can be seen from miles around. Arundel Castle is the ancestral home of the one of the foremost Catholic families in England, the Duke of Norfolk (and has been for well over 850 years). It remains the second largest castle in Britain, and is surrounded by truly magnificent grounds.
Although the first castle on this site was built in the late 11th century (by a Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel), what remains today is mostly 18th/19th century. Unfortunately, most of the original castle was ruined during the Civil War (by a cannon fired by Oliver Cromwell's army from the steeple of St. Nicholas' Church), and then reconstructed by various dukes over the years. So despite its imposing medieval appearance, the castle is actually not all that old afterall!
Visitors to the castle can appreciate some stunning state apartments and some fine 16th century furniture and tapestries, as well as paintings by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Holbein and Constable. The prayer book and rosary beads of the tragic Mary Queen of Scots can also be viewed here.
I must confess to not having been around the Castle on an official tour for at least 15 years, but I can remember my last visit very well, and it really is an interesting way to spend an afternoon. Having spent some many weekends at the Castle as a child, I remember it very well, and don't need to do the official tour all that very often. Before he died, my grandfather was butler to the 16th Duke of Norfolk and his family for many years, and I remember my weekend visits to my grandparents' apartments within the Castle walls almost like they were yesterday. I'm sure that the Norfolk family must have been away from the Castle on those afternoons when my brother and I bounced across the centre green on our bright orange space-hoppers. Unfortunately, the Duke was in residence on the afternoon when we were cycling up and down the stone corridors of the castle on our bikes. The Duke asked my brother who we were, and my brother said "My granddad works here. Who are you?". It was a good job the Duke has a sense of humour or my brother may well have found himself confined to the dungeons for a spell. Another day, we got into trouble for sliding down the steep grass banks of the keep tower and leaving long, highly visible marks in the turf. In fact, we seem to have gotten up to all sorts of mischief there, as we also got into trouble with the local police for pressing the castle panic button by the side of the fireplace in my grandparents' living room...not once but twice. Littlehampton police were not at all amused to be called on two false alarms within two weeks.
The entry points to the Castle can be found at the bottom of the hill opposite the pay and display car park in Mill Road or at the top of the hill on the corner of the High Street/London Road. The castle is open to the public between the months of March and November only and entry will cost you around £13.00 per person with the usual concessions for the elderly and young. Further details can be found at http://www.arundelcastle.org/index.htm
~~~ Arundel Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady and St Philip Howard) ~~~
At the very top of the hill (London Road) you can go and view both the Cathedral and the nearby parish Church of St Nicholas.
As the Norfolk family have traditionally been recognised as the premier Roman Catholic family in England, it's only fitting that they should have been instrumental in building a place of worship in their home town. The cathedral is a towering Gothic looking building and was erected in the mid 19th century. Joseph Hansom (who also invented the Hansom cab), designed the cathedral. If you're in the area in June, the cathedral plays host to the two day Corpus Christi Festival, during which the entire length of aisle is laid out with a carpet of flowers, and is truly stunning spectacle. Further details at http://www.arundelcathedral.org/
~~~ The Parish Church of St Nicholas ~~~
Nearby is the smaller St. Nicholas Church (where my parents got married and I was christened), which is unique in being both Roman Catholic and Protestant, all under one roof. There is the Anglican parish chapel as well as the Roman Catholic Fitzalan Chapel (which houses the remains of many of the catholic Dukes of Norfolk). The Anglican bit is in the nave and the chancel houses the Catholic section. The areas are divided by a screen and each has their own entrance - the Protestant bit is via London Road and the Catholic chapel is accessed through the Castle grounds. Further details are at http://www.stnicholas-arundel.co.uk/
~~~ The Town ~~~
If historical monuments bore you tears, then all is not lost, as the town itself has lots of unusual shopping opportunities. There is a plethora of medieval, Regency and Victorian architecture to appreciate, as well as lovely cobbled streets and narrow, winding lanes.
There are some lovely antique shops throughout the town, with the bigger ones being located in the High Street, Tarrant Street and Arun Street. There's a really good craft centre in Tarrant Street, with lots of little studios and shops specialising in all manner of different trades and selling interesting and unusual curios.
There are numerous art galleries in the town, as well as more specialist traders selling such things as antique walking sticks or ancient cameras. There's also a chocolatier, a specialist bakery and glass blowing studios. In fact, there is more than enough to tempt the palate of even the most jaded shopper. I particularly love the bigger antique shops (try Nineveh House in Tarrant Street), they're wonderful to wander around in and come across the odd thing you remember your older relatives having. I picked up one of those old printers trays (lots of tiny sectioned off areas) for a song a couple of years ago. Polished up, it has proved a lovely wall hanging to pop all those little ornaments and bits and bobs in (though it is a nightmare to dust!). Similarly, these shops are a collectors heaven; be it Rupert Bear annuals, cigarette cards, antique jewellery or lace table clothes - you're likely to find them in Arundel.
~~~ The River Arun ~~~
The River Arun runs right along the bottom of the town. It can look very muddy, brown and angry on occasion. However, during the spring and the summer, it does often look delightful with a good variety of swans and ducks to see. However, one should be aware that the River Arun is not for swimming in, as there are some very strong and dangerous currants in it. Care must be taken if you decide to hire one of the rowing boats (from £9.00 per hour) at the water's edge, as it's easy to get swept away. If you feel too lazy to do your own rowing, you can partake of a riverboat cruise instead. A trip on one of these can take you upstream on the River Arun alongside the towering chalk cliffs of the South Downs to the village of Amberley (where you can visit Amberley Chalk Pits Museum, if you so wish). It is a very picturesque trip along the river and a true delight on a summery day.
~~~ Wildlife and Wetland Trust ~~~
As you head out of the town itself, alongside the river (Mill Road), things will be a little quieter.
If you're fond of birds, this is a wonderful place to spend a day. The grounds play host to a wide variety of ducks, swans, geese and other migratory birds from all over the world. There is a nature trail you can undertake around the 60 acres of marshland, ponds and lakes. Open all year round, entry will cost you around £8.45 per person with the usual concessions for the elderly and young. I'm not overly interested in birds, so I've never been there, but my ten year nephew went there last year, and he really loved it. Further details can be found at http://www.wwt.org.uk/centre/116/visit/arundel/.html
~~~ Swanbourne Lake and Arundel Park ~~~
If you've spent too much on antiques or collectibles in the town, then a quick turn around Swanbourne Lake (and the surrounding 1,000 acres known as Arundel Park) may be in order, as it's free to enter. You can hire a rowing boat if you so wish, or just feed the ducks, swans and geese. I prefer to take a hike around the lake itself, as it's a good circular route. Unfortunately, you can't take dogs into the lake or the surrounding park, which has rather limited our recent visits to the lake. Arundel Park is largely open downland so it's quite hilly, but it's well worth a wander in.
~~~ Food and Drink ~~~
After visiting any or all of these historical monuments, you may wish to have a sit down to gather your strength for your return home, or further afternoon activities.
There are lots of very nice pubs and restaurants in Arundel, with something to suit every palate. If chain restaurants are your preference, then you've got the choice of a Pizza Express on the High Street or a Beefeater just over the river and up the hill in the nearby village of Crossbush.
If you prefer something a little spicier there's a very nice Indian restaurant (New Castle Tandoori in Mill Lane, just off the High Street), or you can try the unusual surroundings of The China Palace in the High Street. It has an elaborately carved 17th-century ceiling imported by a former owner from a palace in Italy.
If you're just after a snack, there are plenty of cafés and tea rooms in the town offering a traditional cream tea or just a slice of cake. My favourite is Belinda's in Tarrant Street, which has been there for well over a hundred years. Tudor Rose on the High Street is also very good too.
Pubs-wise you can get real ale and good food at The Eagle in Tarrant Street, and Butlers (also in Tarrant Street) is a nice bar and restaurant.
If you prefer to head out of the town, The Black Rabbit is a lovely riverside pub situated in Offham, which is just a couple of miles along Mill Road (past the entrances to Swanbourne Lake and The Wildlife and Wetland Trust). The food is pretty unspectacular, but you can enjoy a pint and a packet of crisps outside in their garden which overlooks the River Arun. This place gets absolutely mobbed in the summer, but it is in a lovely setting.
Similary, The George & Dragon in the very picturesque village of Burpham is well worth a visit. It's situated on a winding country road just a couple of miles outside of Arundel town centre. As it's situated on the heart of the South Downs Way, this pub is very popular with hikers and mountain bikers.
~~~ RECOMMENDATION ~~~
I think you will have gathered from my review that there is really rather a lot to see and do in Arundel, despite it being a relatively small town. There's something there that will appeal to every age group, be it visiting ancient monuments, hillside walks, messing about in boats or simply feeding the ducks. For such a small town, it really is jam-packed with attractions, yet it has retained all its originality and has bucket loads of charm. I'm really struggling to find any drawbacks to the place, and the only things I can think of is that it can be a nightmare to find parking there in at the height of the summer, and the narrow streets can be a little crowded. Some of the attractions are situated rather high on the hill which may not suit the infirm or elderly so much, but there is still plenty to see and do on the flatter parts by the river banks. Those small niggles aside, Arundel remains a very friendly, laid back place and comes very highly recommended.
~~~ HOW TO GET THERE ~~~
Arundel is easily reached via the A27 and is situated between Chichester and Worthing.
Arundel station is situated a little way out of town (about half a mile), but is served by regular trains from London Victoria, Portsmouth, Chichester and Brighton.
~~~ FURTHER INFORMATION ~~~
Arundel Tourist Office
61 High Street
Tel: 01903-882268 Fax: 01903-882419
~~~ WEBSITES OF INTEREST ~~~
The Arundel Festival is held annually in the town during the last week of August (www.arundelfestival.co.uk) and plays host to a number of well-known groups and solo artists. Some of last year's top acts were Girl's Aloud and Shayne Ward....but don't let that put you off a visit to the town!
My partner and I took a trip to Arundel on Sunday. I'm nuts about castles and we both like walking around beautiful places. Arundel did not disappoint us. This was pretty good going, since flooding had closed the local wetland nature reserve and the castle is closed during the winter. In addition, the weather was freezing - it could all have been an appalling waste of time. However, the sun shone all day and we had a great half day wandering around the town. Parking spaces were plentiful (I'm not sure what it's like in peak season though!) and we secured a spot near the town "centre" - there's not an awful lot of town not to be central! First port of call was the Tourist Information office, which was open and extremely helpful. For just 25p we bought walking tour sheets to guide us around the town. These were extremely informative and interesting, full of detail on architecture, history, little gems to look out for (like the miniature anvil on the roof of what was the Ironmongers) and fun stories - like the hill where Queen Victoria's carriage was once stuck. The Catholic cathedral is an incredible, impressive but strangely squat structure. Apparently, plans for a huge spire were scuppered when they realised the building could not support it. The castle - even from the outside - is magnificent. A melange of real defences and modern (Victorian) romantic reconstruction its spires and machicolations are Disney-like, except that despite the modern work, an air of impregnability stills hangs over it all. It dominates everything, with its hill-top position accentuated by the inherent height of its walls and towers. In the town are many pretty shops and pubs. Antique shops are prevalent and a wonderful haven for cigarette card collectors. Evidence of the recent floods abounded in the shape of sandbags, particularly down in the old docks area, but did not
detract from the beauty of the place. We really enjoyed our half day of rural quaintness, before heading over to Brighton for the brashness of the Pier and pleasure beach. And if you find the frisbee that my partner managed to launch from Brighton beach half way to France, please get in touch... I miss it.